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April 21. 1871. 4o9 [Lesley 

The Geological Structure op Tazewell, Russell and Wise 
Counties, in Virginia. 

By. J. P. Lesley. 

(Bead before the American Philosophical Society, April 21st, 1871.) 

I was called upon recently to examine a part of the Alleghany Moun- 
-tain Range, between the New River (Kanawha) in Middle Virginia and 
the north line of the State of Tennessee, for the purpose of determining 
the nearest possible approach to a workable coal region of a contemplated 
Railway from Harper's Ferry on the Potomac to Knoxville in Tennessee. 

The geological structure of this part of the United States is so peculiar 
and so nearly unknown to geologists, or at least unnoticed in any pub- 
lished memoirs, that I have taken some pains to portray it, believing that 
it will be an acceptable contribution to the literature of the science and 
to the proceedings of this Society. The present paper is, however, a 
virtual continuation of my description of the South Virginia Coal region 
of Montgomery and Wythe Counties, read before this Society in 1862, 
•and published in Vol. IX of its Proceedings, pages 30 to 38. 

Professor William B. Rogers, State Geologist of Virginia, is well 
acquainted, no doubt, with the essential facts about to be described, and 
•probably has materials for a more extensive description of the central 
belt of the Appalachians among the unpublished archives of the State 
Geological Survey of Virginia ; but I doubt that any sections have been 
constructed which express more clearly the state of things in a geological 
sense, than those which I have this opportunity of making known. 

Professor James M. Safford, State Geologist of Tennessee, has studied 
the Southern continuation of the belt, and describes it in his Geology of 
Tennessee, Nashville, 1869. But the sections given in that valuable work, 
which has cost its author so much time, skill and labor to prepare, and 
for which American Geologists are most grateful, are only adapted for 
general description, not being drawn to a natural scale, and are not of 
use for the critical study of the dynamic problem here offered to the con- 
sideration of structural geologists. 

The map which accompanies this paper was made to show the railway 
avenues through the region above named, by bringing out clearly its 
main topographical features. I have colored it to show to the eye its 
main geological features, especially those due to the lines of Downthrow, 
which are also the lines of limit for the Coal Measures. I have confined 
the coloring within narrow limits so as not to obscure the prime facts. 
No distinction is made therefore between the Calciferous, Trenton, Birds- 
eye, Black River and Hudson River formations , all of them being colored 
a. p. s. — VOL. XII. — 3j 



April 21, 

blue, representing the limestone valley formations, Lower Silurian, Nos. 
II and III of the Pennsylvania nomenclature. 

The Oneida Conglomerate, Shawngunk Grit, and Medina Sandstone, 
Middle Silurian, No. IV, are left uncolored, to make their mountain 
character more conspicuous. The Upper Silurian, Clinton, No. V, carry- 
ing the Dyestone, Fossil Iron Ore, is colored red, to catch the eye, because 
of its practical importance for railway purposes, and because it is the red 
formation of the North, par excellence, although it is not so marked in 
nature along its southern outcrops. If the native coloring of the soil 
were to govern the tinting of the map the Hudson River slates (No. Ill) 
would require this pigment. 

The Devonians are represented by a Vandyke brown wash (Nos. VIII, 
IX, X), and the Coal Measures by a wash of Payne's gray. No color is 
allowed for No. XI., which shows so prominently on the geological map 
of Pennsylvania in red, because its outcrop is feeble here and not espe- 
cially red. 

The main features of the topography are quite correct (except near its 
eastern end, of which I can say nothing) ; and it distinctly shows how 
the mountains are made, by the downthrows, to run in pairs, with a "poor 
valley " between each pair, consisting of Devonian Sandstones and Upper 
Silurian shales containing the Clinton, Dyestone, or Fossil Iron Ore ; and 
how the pairs are separated by wider Lower Silurian limestone or "rich" 
valleys, containing the villages and farms of blue grass and scattered 
and probably extensive deposits of Brown Hematite Iron Ore, which I 
have not colored. 

The black lines 1, 2, 8, 4, &c, show where the vertical geological sec- 
tions in this report are to be looked for on the map. 

There is no map of this country worthy of the name. I have copied 
the State map and then changed its details according to my observations. 
The geology is perfectly simple, when one has the key to it. The key to 
it is given by the pairing off of the mountains along the Downthrows. 

I begin then with this curious and all important phenomenon. Fig. 1, 
shows it in a purely ideal way ; but reference must be made to Sections. 
1, 2, 3, 4, &c, for its actual representation in different places. 

IDEAL CROSS SECTION, showing the cracks or downthrows. 

What the power was, which cracked the anticlinal and synclinal curves, 




and shoved the 10,000 feet of Carboniferous, Devonian, and Silurian Form- 
ations over each other, like cakes of ice in a river freshet, it would be 
premature here to discuss. 

The consequence has been, that along the straight lines of these cracks 
— lines running for fifty or a hundred miles, — the coals at the top of the 
system abut against the limestones near its bottom. 

Another consequence has been that no coal is to be found but on the 
north side of each crack. The whole mass of rocks above the line A — B 
has been removed (it is needless to describe the process, which is still 
going on and can be studied by any observer), so that the vast coal field 
which once covered this country is no longer in existence ; and the only 
remnants of it left are long stripes, a few hundred yard) wide, running 
along the north lip of each crack. 

A third, and equally important consequence, has been, that even this 
poor remnant of the Coal-Measures, where it is left, consists of only the 
very lowest bed or the two lowest beds of the Coal Measures, the poorest 
of all the coal beds of the system. Fig. 3 will show how this result 

Kg- 2. 


It is not until, going north 30° west, several such downthrows with 
their comparatively worthless coal fields (so to call them) .have been 
passed, that the real coal field of the country is reached. Its southern 
edge runs along a straight downthrow lying just north of the Clinch 

I shall first take up this line at Guest's River, in "Wise County, 
and follow it northeastward, ascending Clinch River ; and I will give sec- 
tions of its CoaJ Measures, wherever I studied them. 

Stone Mountain, which is the south border of the Guest River Coal 
Fields, in Wise County, is cut throughby Powell's River at the Big Gap] 
Some miles further east its summit is notched by a wind-gap (Little 
Gap), through which the turnpike from Wise County Court House 
(Gladesville) to Scott County Court House (Estillville) passes. The 
lowest eoal bed is opened on the side of the road a quarter of a mile before 



[April 21, 

reaching the gap ; that is, high up the southern face of the mountain. The 
coal bed is 4 feet thick, and vertical. The core of the mountain is a ver- 
tical Conglomerate Sandrock. On the south face of the mountain are 
cliffs of Lower Silurian limestone. A fault, therefore, runs through the 
mountain lengthwise, thus : 


Stone M-ln,, 

This section, however, I did not myself see ; but the information from 
which I construct it was given to me so clearly, and agrees so exactly 
with what I saw myself further east, that I have no hesitation in assign- 
ing it a place in this report, without endorsing it more specially. 

On the west side of Guest River, two miles below the mouth of Tom's 
Creek, a two-foot coal bed is mined ; it lies nearly flat, under cliffs of hori- 
zontal conglomerate rock. Below this place, the river enters the canon, 
through which it rushes for two miles before entering the Clinch River. 
Vertical walls of conglomerate, hundreds of feet high, stand opposite 
each other. This is the natural gate for a railway line to the Wise 
County and Kentucky Coal Field. 


Coal beds are opened up and down Tom's Creek and its branches. 
One coal bed, from 5 to 6 feet thick, runs- through the bases of all the 
hills, nearly at water level, and almost horizontal. It is mined for family 
use in the gulches back of Guest's Station (an old log fort, now a store 
and, although half a mile from the mouth of Tom's Creek, overflowed 
whenever Guest River is in high freshet), and by Mr. Jessee, and for 
several miles still higher up Tom's Creek. It is mined up Little Tom's 
Creek, and on Crab Orchard Creek, as a fine six (6) foot bed of rather 
handsome flaming coal, solid enough to wagon over rough roads, and 
not making much ashes or clinker in the grate. It is at least equal to 





The Great Sheep Rock on Robert's Butt 


Lesley.] 494 t April 21, 

the general run of the Lower Coal Measure coals in the Bituminous 
Coal Basins of the Susquehanna West Branch and the Conemaugh. I 
saw no other beds here ; but there must be others both below it and 
above it ; for the beforementioned two-foot bed ought to be above it, as 
the above section (3) shows. 

I made a measured section of one of these hills, called Robert's Butt 
(over 700 feet high, and capped with a fragment of the great conglom- 
erate sandrock which once covered all the country), as a specimen of the 
barriers which separate all these streams from one another, in the coal 
field, and to show how impracticable any railroad line must be which 
does not follow closely the great water-courses. 

The following section up the side of Robert's Butt, half a mile north 
of Guest's Station, was made with an aneroid barometer. It shows the 
Sheep Rock Conglomerate Sandstone to be about 700 feet above the 
(Newberry, Robinet, Grier, Jessee, &c.) Six-Foot Coal Bed : 


At one place where the bed has been dug a little into, it yields the best 
kind of bituminous coal, fat and caking, but friable, with no appearance 
of sulphur, and making no clinker. It is good blacksmith-coal, and no 
doubt will make good coke. A piece of ill-made coke from what is, per- 
haps, the same bed, near Gladesville, shows that the best coke can be got 
from it. 

On Busse's Greek this coal bed is also at water level and has been 
mined by Robert P. Dickenson in the bed of the creek, near his house, 
and in a run a quarter of a mile further east, where a horizontal gang- 
way has been commenced. About 5 feet of the coal is visible ; the bottom 
is not reached, being in water. Roof: a shaley clay, without distinct 
plant impressions. Upper part of the bed bituminous, and somewhat 
bony. From the first 12 inches downwards, solid, and somewhat like can- 
nel. Coal in some parts slightly granular, reminding one of the sand- 
coal of Montgomery County. Bottom coal very good for blacksmithing ; 
makes a hollow fire ; but cakes little and goes out before morning ; not 
much ashes ; ashes white ; makes a yellow blaze ; no sulphuret of iron 
visible ; no fossil leaves. Streaks of coal through the bed showing 




numerous minute discs of sulphuret of iron in the fissures ; so that an 
analysis of the bed as a whole will give a notable percentage of sul- 



Oct m</.xu*itit<z> r? 

/OJ'eet vertiatt apart. 
Scale, 680j-dt- lo on& iruJv 

phur ; and it will be extremely difficult to pick the coal, if mined exten- 
sively, so as to furnish it free of sulphur. It is, however, on the whole, a 
satisfactory bed ; and its harder benches will bear carriage well. 



f April 21, 


The bed dips at least 5° southward at this precise place ; but not so 
much over a larger area. Over it are thin slabs of shaley sandstone, with 
large calamites and stigmaria stem impressions ; and over these again a 
small coal bed ; which cannot lie more than 20 feet, if that, above the 
other bed. 
I made a careful survey of the hill to the south of this place, the sum- 
mit of which is made by south-dipping con- 
glomerate sandrocks (Sheep Rock of the last 
section) ; and found two coal beds outcrop- 
ping on its north face, and two more on its 
south face, descending Whetstone Run to 
Clinch River. This run has a conglomerate 
terrace on its left bank, and is rendered very 
rocky by the descent of fragments of rock. 

Section No. 8 on the map is the most instruct- 
ive I could obtain in this district of the region, 
and requires no explanation. It shows that 
the distance from the Six-Foot Bed up to the 
Sheep Rock Conglomerate is everywhere about 
700 feet, and contains at least two coal beds ; 
and that there is one more coal bed above the 
conglomerate. I had no means of determin- 
ing the size or quality of any one of these three 
beds ; but they are all, probably, under 3 feet. 
The above sketch-map and this accompanying 
cross-section (No. 3) were measured on the 
ground and drawn to scale. They enable me 
to speak of only one coal bed above the Sheep 
Rock Conglomerate, with two outcrops on this 
road, looking like two coal beds. Further 
east, as will be seen, this bed (?) has several 
others over it. 

The section renders it doubtful whether the 
coal dug at lowest water in the bed of the 
Clinch at the mouth of the Whetstone be the 
six-foot bed. It looks more like the second 
bed above it. But the southeast end of the 
section is a little obscure, and I had no time 
to study the exact character of the Down- 
throw of the Coal Measures against the lime- 
stones 4 * at this point. It runs through an iso- 
lated hill, quite surrounded by a bend of the 
river, as shown in the sketch-map on the next 



* Query.— Do these belong to an outcrop of the subcarbou- 
iferous limestone issuing from the fault ? 




The map below will give a better idea than any verbal description of the- 
difficult nature of the ground for railroading purposes down Clinch Val- 
ley. The hills are from 200 to 300 feet high and present bold and massive- 
cliffs of Lower Silurian limestone to the river. 

It will also illustrate the general law that the principal rivers and large 
streams of this region of Virginia run in the lower members of the Lowei- 
Silurian limestone system, as they habitually do elsewhere, near the edge 
of the Freestone Carboniferous land. The cause of this is evident. The 
surface of the country as it is at present has been produced by the- 
removal of all the geological formations above that which now forms the 
surface^ When the Downthrows were first formed the drainage of the* 

tr/ure it strikes the- Coal Measures and rebounds, 

at .Lick. Rtuv. 

country was down the face of the Coal Measures to the crack and then 
along the crack sideways. This produced a very slow erosion of the 
Coal Measures, because of their numerous massive bed of sandstone. 
But the drainage along the cracks produced great erosion into the face of 
the sandy and magnesian limestone exposed by it. The drainage from 
above also produced caverns in the limestone. Out of these caverns 
issued streams which swelled the rivers which ran along the cracks. The 
formations over the limestone were worn rapidly away. The face of the 
limestone wall of the crack was worn back. And so, by the time the 
present surface level was reached, the rivers, which originally flowed on 
the Coal Measure side of the cracks, had got their valley-beds fairly 
established on the limestone side of the cracks ; and, sometimes, at a 
considerable distance on that side. 

As the lower limestones are massive and very soluble all the streams 
of the region which flow through them have extremely rough and tortu- 
a. p. s. — vol. xii. — 3k 

Lesley.] 4:170 [April 21, 

©us valleys, walled in at intervals with cliffs. The smaller streams head 
up in smooth valleys (of the upper limestones and slates of the Lower 
Silurian system) admirably fitted for railroad locations. But near their 
mouths, where they cut rapidly down through the lower limestones to 
flow into the cross streams, their beds are full of jagged rocks and their 
valleys difficult for cheap railroading. 

It is among these lower limestones that the beds of brown hematic iron 
-ore lie. For instance, the cliff at the river bank, just where the road 
from the west along the north bank comes to the ford at the mouth of 
Lick Run, is a mass of sandy limestone, near the bottom of the Lower 
Silurian system. Further up the north bank of the river, east of Lick 
Run, is a long limestone hill on which many pieces of the ore are scat- 
tered, some of them very large. There is a good chance here for the ex- 
istence of a valuable iron-ore deposit on a large scale. The ore is good. 


I made no detailed examination above Lick Run for a good many 
miles ; and I have mentioned in a Summary Report the streams crossed 
by the coal beds in this interval. I will only add here, that some of these 
beds were reported to me as ten (10) feet thick. " The six-foot bed may 
become thicker at points which I did not visit than it is where I saw it. 

The "Mouth of Indian" is a thriving little village on the north bank 
of the Clinch where it enters Russell County. I surveyed this neighbor- 
hood carefully, because the coal beds here have been opened more exten- 
sively than elsewhere ; because they stand at a higher angle and give a 
series ; and because the downthrow is exhibited in a most curious and 
instructive manner. The river breaks through limestone just above In- 
dian Creek mouth, forming bluffs called the Cedar Bluffs. A dam was 
built here forty years ago out of red cedar logs which has never needed 
repairs. It is fifteen feet high and backs the water two miles. Middle 
Creek descends from the north and enters just below Indian Creek. 

Up Middle Creek are the coal mines. See the following map : 

g^gr^ v ^<r^^^\_^^^^^^^^^ CUMH 

Two miles further down the river, Big Creek runs across the upper end 
of the wide and fertile bottom called the "Rich Lands," at the farm of 
Mr. Gillespie. 

Two miles further west, a salt well, 354 feet deep, was sunk at the 
north edge of the river bottom, on Mr. Kendrick's land, twenty-two (22) 
jears ago, and, at 337 feet, went through 6.7 (six feet seven inches) of 

1871.] 4y» [Lesley. 

coal. Six feet at the top of the well was mud. All the rest was "sand- 
rock," without coal. 

Petroleum. — There was enough oil to grease the rods. The well was 
plugged up. Recently the plug was knocked out, when fresh water spouted 
from the 3£-inch hole to a height of three feet, but soon subsided. A film 
of oil stands on the water, which is very cold and too brackish to taste per- 
fectly good, although cattle go to it in preference to drinking other water. 

Salt. — The spot selected for the well had been a famous deer and buf- 
falo lick. The ground had been eaten away by the animals. Thirty or 
forty deer used> to be seen at, one time at this lick ; and spoonfuls of salt 
could be collected. It must be borne in mind that the salt wells of East- 
ern Kentucky get their water from the conglomerate at the base of the 
Coal Measures. There must, therefore, be a saltwater-bearing formation 
several hundred feet below the coal bed at the bottom of this well ; sup- 
posing, 1, that it is the Six-foot Bed of Wise County ; and supposing, 2, 
that the Sheep Rock Conglomerate Sandstone is not the true Conglom- 
erate Base of the Coal Measures. But even if the latter supposition be 
wrong, and the Six-foot Bed be one of the Sub-Conglomerate Coal Beds 
of Eastern Kentucky, which is quite a possible thing, there remains a 
still lower "Knobstone," or Devonian Saltwater-bearing Formation, 
from which the salt water must And its way to the surface through the 
<Jreat Downthrow and cross-Assures connected with it. This Devonian 
Saltwater-bearing Formation is that which supplies our deep salt wells in 
"Western Pennsylvania, and is also the same as the Petroleum-bearing 
Formation of Venango County. 


( Section No. 6 of flw Mep',) 
cft-ttJ- Stoney Jiidyt . 

The Six-foot Coal Bed, here, has been opened and mined for the use 
of the neighborhood by Mr. Scott, at (a) about 1£ miles up the creek from 
its mouth ; and again at (b) a quarter of a mile further up, on the same 
south dip. At both (a and b) it shows a disturbance represented in 
diagram on the next pages. 

The bed is here, really, but 2£ to 3 feet thick. It is covered with a 
plate of sandstone which is several feet thick ; and, although the pres- 
sure produced by the Great Downthrow, which runs along at a distance 
of about half a mile due south of the locality of the mine, has folded the 
coal bed with the sandrock back upon itself, yet the sandstone of the 
rock, thus caught in between the walls of the fold of the coal, is perfectly 
solid and does not show the slightest trace of disturbance. This is a 
striking, but well-known phenomenon. The coal itself is bent round, 
and shows sharp tongues, in the fold. 

Lesley.] *-(\(\ 

°«" [April a, 

At (b) the same sandrock is equally folded and unbroken, as the follow- 
ing diagram (looking in the opposite direction, i. e. east) will explain. 

Here, also, the bed, which when doubled measures 5 or 6 feet thick, 
is really but a three-foot bed. There is nothing, in fact, to identify it 
with the "Six-foot" coal of Wise County. But it may very well be the 
6.7 coal of the Salt Well, three miles distant. 

It is opened again at (e) some hundred yards higher up the creek, and 
on a north dip of 50°. The Confederate army mined it pretty exten- 
sively. It is here three feet thick, in three benches each a foot thick. 
The top and bottom benches good, the middle bench bony. Over it are 
three or four feet of slates, and then comes a one-foot bed of bony coal. 
The report goes that the miners found these two coal beds close together, 
down below ; making thus one very fair four-foot coal bed. A diagram 
on the next page shows the whole exposure in position. 

All this is not very encouraging for the coal trade. But the same bed 
has been opened at (d), directly on the crest of the anticlinal, which has 
here sunk (running in an easterly direction) to the level of the creek. Here 




the coal lies flat in the water ; and several pits, sunk through it, are 
deeper than the height of a man. The bed must be nearly, or quite, six 
feet, and yields good coal (as indeed it does at the other openings); but 
•what its constitution may be I do not know. It is probably subdivided 
into benches of different qualities ; and,- no doubt, has some of the slate 
of the above last section running through it. Its position on the anticli- 
nal will make mining difficult. 

_ „„ c " il 

The anticlinal disturbance at Scott's Mines on Middle Creek must be 
local ; because the topography around the Salt Well shows that the Coal 
Measures there come up to the Downthrow in a flat and undisturbed con- 
dition ; and the dying down of the crown of the anticlinal in the Six-foot 
bed so rapidly that the bed lies flat in the creek only a few hundred 
yards above where it plunges at angles of 40°, 50° and 60° proves the 
same thing. 


Scotts J\Ci/ic, JRi&seU Co. } yiryutia, . 

Nevertheless, the very steep dips of the overlying coal beds and rocks 
throughout the body of Stony Ridge makes the whole disturbance of con- 
siderable magnitude ; and I have no doubt that when it is well examined 
to the eastward, it will be found to run in that direction some miles ; not, 
perhaps, as an anticlinal but as a downthrow ; and it may very well be 
the Abb's Valley Downthrow, of which more hereafter. 



[April 21 r 


Leaving the curious topography of the Big Creek, Middle Creek, and 
Mouth of Indian Downthrow to be described hereafter, in connection 
with Paint Lick Mountain and its Iron Ore, and going east up Indian 
Creek Valley, I can only report coal mines on Laurel Run,' a side branch 
coming into Indian from the northwest. Mr. Christian has here opened 
several beds, one of which is reported to be much over six feet thick. 
The coal is wagoned to the county-town of Tazewell, Jeffersonville, fifteen 
or seventeen (15 or 17) miles distant. The following sketch will show 
how the coal comes out to market — two miles to James Smith's, on the 
Baptist Yalley Boad (beautifully engineered, at low grades), formerly a 
turnpike, and still the highway between East Kentucky and Middle Vir- 
ginia ; two miles to the Clinch Valley Road ; thirteen miles by either of 
these two roads to Jeffersonville : 

What'the character of the Christian Coal is I do not know by personal in- 
spection ; but it must come from the same beds, and be essentially similar 
to the Scott Coals, and also to the Abb's Valley Coal next to be described. 

Just.east of the Christian Mines runs a limestone valley, along the 
south side of the Downthrow, in which the waters sink into caverns. It 
is called " Sinking Waters." Any one familiar with Abb's Valley (15 
miles further east) will see at once, that the formation is the same ; but 
I will show that Stony Ridge separates the two valleys and that the 
coal areas which I have been following all the way from Wise County are 
cut off, or whittled down to a fine point, opposite Jeffersonville. The next 
cross-section, No. 8, will show how this is done, and also how the Abb's 
Valley coal beds are brought down to the present surface by quite a dif- 
ferent Downthrow from the one we have been tracing thus far, all the 
way from Guest's River in Wise County ; a Downthrow behind and to 
the north of this one ; as the map in colors will also help to show. 

The Clinch Valley Downthrow, going east from Indian Creek, catches 
in its jaws a less and less number of beds and width of coal ground, until 
at last, on crossing the great road from Jeffersonville north to Tug Fork 
of Sandy, it holds but the lowest coal bed, standing at a high angle and 
very little of it left. 

This is seen on the Section No. 8, marked Captain Frank Peery's Coal. 
How far east along this crack this coal can be traced: I do not know ; 
but nothing of value can be expected from it ; which is a great pity ; for 
at this point easy access to the back country ends. 




To get over into the Abb's Valley Coal Fields, two mountains must be 
crossed, or, rather steep stony hills, consisting of all the formations from 
the coal down to the limestone ; especially Sandrocks X (Catskill) and 
IV (Shwangunk) here much diminished in thickness ; which accounts for 
the comparative lowness of these mountains when compared with the 
high mountains formed by the increased outcrops of these formations in 
the Northern S hates. 

The deep rapid rocky bed of Mud Fork of Bluestone lies between the 
two mountains and descends eastward. Where the turnpike crosses it 
it is 400 feet below the notch in the crest of the first mountain, X (say 
550 feet'below the crest itself) ; and 250 feet below a slight notch in the 
crest of the second mountain, IV. ,Thi s crossing of Mud Fork is, by 
barometer, on a level with the Jeffersonville Court House, and about 100 
feet higher than the Clinch two miles east of Jeffersonville, at the west 
end of "Wolf Creek Valley. 

( Cross Section ■ JVt* 8, tm- tJi* Map} 


Sectioji S.20°E. N. 20° W, through Jeffersonvil/e;Va. * 


X.measi* Catti'kiU Group of NeH-Yorfc 

The turnpike summit crossing the first mountain (X) is 300 feet above 
Captain Frank Peery's, on the head-waters of Clinch (6J miles north of 
Jeffersonville). Clinch and Bluestone run in opposite directions along 
Wright's Valley ; Clinch westward, Bluestone eastward. The divide 
between them is about \\ miles east of the turnpike, at Frank Peery's, 
and say 100 feet higher in level. This route from Greenbrier to Tazewell 
is feasible, but it is needless to try to get coal out that way. 

^|Y. STONY fit DOE. M X ^^ 


Abis Valley j^ "*\ Mru * ^' orfr *<# / / r '^- f 'P l ^ e "\ Wright's Vatiey. 


/£S£!£3»\^\ of Blue Stone. . / jS*l&t 

"\ \ CUtuA ff&ters. 


^ i^v^ y^ ^ 



-^ ^ 

A. ~"^=~--~A- f*ry 



Mud Fork of Bluestone heads up rapidly westward of the turnpike, 
and yet the valley between X and IV must continue on between the two- 
Stony Ridges from the very necessities of the case. 

Lesley.] 504 [April 21, 

Abb's Valley is produced by a great upthrow of the Lower Silurian 
limestone against the Coal Measures. The turnpike enters it almost at 
its head, or western end. From the notch in IV through which the road 
passes, to the Dry- water course in the centre of the valley is a descent 
(by barometer) of only 110 feet. Westward the valley rapidly fills up, 
and that is the course to take in locating a railroad from the mines out to 
Jeffersonville. A feasible route may be obtained, I think, by keeping up 
Abb's Valley to and over its divide, and down Cavitt's Run to the Clinch, 
two miles west of Jeffersonville. 

The cause of the heading up of Abb's Valley and Mud Fork Valley so 
suddenly westward, and against what seems to be the main body of the 
Tug Fork of Sandy Coal Measures, is a most interesting and important 
affair, which should be investigated. I can only conjecture it. I take it 
to be likely that the Abb's Valley Upthrow of limestone starts across the 
Measures southwestwardly, becoming less and less of an upthrow, and 
thus swallowing down from the surfaca first, the Lower Silurian lime- 
stones of Abb's Valley, and then the shales and sandstones of the two 
stony ridges IV and X ; and that it finally merges in the Clinch River 
Upthrow. At -all events, such a geology would result in a topography of 
this sort : The limestone and shale valleys would head up suddenly against 
a ridge composed of Coal Measures Conglomerate or Sandrocks. 

My advice is, that no coal-freight railroad line be sought for in ,the 
direction taken by the Jefferson and Tug Sandy Turnpike. But, on the 
contrary, that a line be sought further west, more down the Clinch, viz. : 
up Cavitt's Creek. Let the coal beds there be carefully explored, and a 
line be found across, the divides beyond the west line of Abb's Valley. 
abb's valley coal. 

Fifty feet below the summit of the hill, shown in the "Local Map" 
on the next page, and nearly 150 feet above the coal bed at its base, is 
a layer of very coarse, gray, friable sandstone, weathering yellow, with- 
out pebbles. Over it a. tree has turned up a coal crop. 

The coal bed below is, perhaps, the only workable bed of this district. 
For, after descending, at a slope of one or two (2°) degrees, south 20° 
east, through the base of the hill, and getting under water level, it seems 
to turn up suddenly and quite vertically, and to outcrop along the bottom 
of a little valley. It has been mined a little close to the turnpike (6) 
and Mr. Smith reports it to be "as wide as a room." 

Ten miles east of this, and in a similar position, a coal bed is mined, 
which I judge to be the same one, and it is called ten (10) feet thick. 

In the openings at the foot of the hill (at a) it has been merely thrown 
out from the water of the little 

brook. Mr. Cochrane, who has g oa i f^S§H11^Ut^^^^ 6"Zltoi»7) 
dug coal all through this re- , . 
gion, gives its thickness as (5) ~/ 
five feet of coal in 5| of space. 
A dirt bed, four inches thick, 
separates the lower bench of 
very fine coal from the upper and main body of the bed. 




This coal bed is dug into by the farmers, at several places on the hill- 
sides of Laurel Fork, from half a mile to several miles north of Smith's 
coal. It is called six feet thick. Cochrane says he has dug it on Laurel 
where it was good seven feet. 


CPnperly Blue Starve Cbal .) 


COAL BED (minacl) 

The level of the coal opening is (by barometer) .115 (one hundred and 
fifteen) feet above Smith's house ; which house is 125 feet below the 
summit of turnpike crossing, Stony Ridge (No. IV). [See p. 504.] The 
coal and the turnpike summit are, therefore, nearly on a level. 

From these coal outcroppings just back of Abb's Valley the coal field 
a. y. s.— vol. xii. — 3l 

Lesley.] oOo [April 21, 

of West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky extends, without a break, to the 
Ohio River. And the south edge of this coal field is the north ridge of 
Abb's Valley. The coal beds can be opened anywhere in the hills, just 
north of Abb's Valley ; and several low windgaps, similar to that at Mr. 
Smith's, give the people of the valley access to the coal field. But, as I 
have said before, the railway line which passes through Tazewell must 
approach the coal field from the west — not from the south ; around the 
head of Abb's Valley, from Cavitt's Creek. This will also subserve the 
interests of any railway projected from the Ohio River up Tug Fork of 
Sandy to Jeffersonville. 

(N. B. — I do not feel entire confidence in my geology of the sandstone 
ridges at Smith's, — the ridges which form the north boundary of Abb's 
Valley. They need much more careful study than I could give them.) 


The valleys of Tazewell and Russell, in Virginia, being geological, as 
well as geographical, prolongations of the interior limestone valleys of 
Pennsylvania, such as the Nittany, Morrison's Cove, and Kishicoquilis, 
contain necessarily the same kinds of ore, in the same formations, and in the 
same conditions. I mean that the unbroken ground is at present covered 
with patches of brown hematite "blossom," just as the ground used to 
be where our charcoal furnaces stand ; and that the color of the road and 
field soil is the same as that of our best iron ore banks ; the limestone 
rocks project in the same style, have the same internal composition, and 
exhibit the same corroded and dissolved surfaces ; and potholes, caverns, 
and sinks abound along certain lines of outcrop. All these things are 
now known to bear an intimate relationship with both the original setting 
free of the mineral iron from the limerocks, and its subsequent deposit 
and consolidation. And it seems to be becoming clear to our geologists, 
that while there are regularly stratified beds and belts of the ore at two 
or three distinct horizons in the Lower Silurian Limestone Formation, 
which may be traced for many miles along the strike of the rocks, there 
are also vast accumulations of this brown hematite ore along anticlinal 
axes, especially wherever these are fractured ; or degenerate into pure up- 
throw faults. It stands to reason that such a line of fracture, with a high 
wall on one side of it, should, in the course of thousands of ages, have 
collected vast quantities of the peroxidized iron which was being, through 
all these ages, set free in the slow dissolution of the limestones and the 
reduction of the whole mass of upheaved country to its present level. To 
say nothing of the facility afforded by such fissures to the decomposing 
and recomposing agency of drainage waters. 

It is along the great upthrow fissures, then, that we are first to seek the 
iron ore deposits of this section of Virginia. And such a spot was 
pointed out to me near the mouth of Lick Run, on the hills bordering the 
north bank of the Clinch River, in Russell County, at section line No. 4 
upon the map. Large masses of "blossom" lie scattered about the 

Similar shows of ore occur in other places. The hills southeast of Jef- 




fersonvi He, just outside the town, show the existence of ore beneath the 
surface. Great quantities are reported two miles east of the town ; and 
still more abundant exhibitions in the cove of Wolf Creek, behind Buck- 
horn Ridge, north of the forks of Wolf Creek, and opposite Rocky Gap. 
Immense shows are reported in Wolf Creek Valley, inside of (or south 
of) Rocky Gap. 

I have myself no doubt of the correctness of these reports, so far as 
surface exhibitions are concerned. And it is an old and good iron mas- 
ter's maxim, that where there is plenty of blossom there will be plenty of 
good ore. The fact is geologically exact. For the blocks of ore on the 
surface of limestone land (like the masses of white quartz on the surface 
of a mica slate country) are the undissoluble parts of the original country 
left behind by the slow and imperceptible mouldering away and 
removal of the softer material. 

A downthrow fissure, also, traverses Wolf Creek, at the foot of Clinch 
Mountain, as shown in the following continuation of section 8, and this 
fissure brings the No. IV sandrock of the mountain (which surrounds 
Burke's Garden) at a dip of 30°, down against the limestone of the val- 
ley. How far this fissure extends eastward I do not know ; but certainly 
beyond Rocky Gap. 


There is also a sharp, broken anticlinal axis running through the valley 
of the Clear Fork of Wolf Creek, and this would favor the accumula- 
tion of iron ore. Another traverses the cove behind Buckhorn Ridge, 
cutting it off from Bast River Mountain. It is on this anticlinal that the 
Wolf Creek Cove ores exhibited. 

But there is another important fact not to be lost out of view. Through 
out Southern Pennsylvania, and as far eastward (along the belt of which 
we are treating) as the Lehigh and the Delaware, and so on through New 
Jersey in the one direction, and through Maryland and Virginia in the 
other direction, the horizon (or formation level) of the bottom of the 
Lower Silurian (formerly called "Hudson River") Slates, No. Ill, and the 
top of the Lower Silurian Limestones, No. II, is a plate of brown hema- 
tite iron ore-bearing rocks. Many of our best and oldest mines, like the 
Balliott and the Moselem, between the Schuylkill and the Lehigh, are on 
the outcrop of this horizon, at the top of the limestone formation. Where 

Lesley.] 60o [April 21, 

the dip is low and the slates of No. Ill are thick, this line runs through 
the middle of our limestone valleys. Where the dips are steep and the 
Slate Formation No. Ill is not so thick, the latter forms the flank of the 
mountain, and the iron ore line runs at the base of the mountain. Where 
a closely folded anticlinal makes the valley so narrow that the two bases 
of the opposing No. Ill Mountains touch each other, and the ridge of the 
limestone formation No. II, juts up along the water course, or does not 
quite come to the surface (as in the three valleys at the left hand side of 
the above Section No. 8), the iron ore deposits must be abundant. 

Holding these simple principles of structure in mind, it is evident that 
the great iron bearing formation, at the base of the No. Ill Slate Forma- 
tion, keeps its character all through Middle and Southern Virginia, and 
will be as rich and certain a basis for large iron mining and iron 
smelting operations as any other and better known section of the Appa- 
lachian Mountain Belt between New York and Alabama. 

An old forge at the west end of Paint Lick Mountain (between Leba- 
non and Jeffersonville) used this top-limestone-horizon ore ; and I have 
no doubt of its abundance in many other places. It is more con- 
stant and regular than the ores further down and near the bottom of the 
Limestone Formation No. II. And these, moreover, are often swallowed 
up to such a depth by the downthrows as not to be attainable for many 

It remains to notice a quite different variety of iron ore, which, I hope, 
will prove sufficiently abundant at a few points along your line of road. 
It is the Fossil Ore of V ; the Paint or Dye-stone Ore of Tennessee. 

To describe the situation of this ore, I must refer to the map accom- 
panying this paper. I have colored Formation No. V, the red shales of 
the Clinton Group, with the color which I gave it on the State Geological 
Map of Pennsylvania. This color, however, is not appropriate to the 
formation in Southern Virginia ; for the red soil and reddish (Upper Si- 
lurian) sandstones which mark the slope sides of our Pennsylvania Moun- 
tains (of No. IV), gradually disappear as one goes south from the Poto- 
mac, giving place to a gray soil and very slightly, often not at all, red- 
dened sandstones and slates. On the other hand, the opposite side of the 
mountain, where the basset edges of the (Lower Silurian) slates of No. 
Ill crop out, is very red. A Pennsylvanian geologist floating over the 
country in a balloon would naturally make the mistake of just reversing 
the geology of the mountain, and would descend upon the wrong side of 
it to seek for the well-known and highly prized fossil ore bed of Danville 
and Frankstown. 

In spite of this change of color in the formation soils of the region, I 
have thought it best to retain the red color for No. V upon the map, see- 
ing that it represents the blood-red color of the fossil ore itself. One may 
see, then, by tracing the lines of color on the map, where the fossil ore 
bed ought to be ; whether it be there or not. Very extensive and costly 
explorations have been necessary in Pennsylvania and Maryland. No 
doubt much research of the same sort will be called for in Virginia. But 
the ore is there ; and, as in Pennsylvania and Tennessee, it will run for 




miles together in a workable condition as to size and posture, and prove 
a source of wealth. 

The principal use of this ore is to mix with other varieties, — with the 
blue carbonate lean ores of the Coal Measures, especially ; but also with 
the inferior grades of brown hematite. The time will come when it will 
be smelted in connection with the primary ores of the Blue Ridge Range 
and Smoky Mountains. 

The forge which stood many years ago at the west end of Paint Lick 
Mountain, in Russell County, used this ore, and obtained it from the sum- 
mit of Short Mountain to the south. 

Paint Lick Mountain is named from an exposure of this ore on its sum- 
mit. The situation is one of peculiar interest to the geologist and to the 


Paint Lick Mltv 

Fossil ore-. 

Deskirvs Mtn,. 

jv.2o°tr. — 

A cross-section, at the road over the mountain, through a notch called 
Lyle's Gap, will show the cause of the appearance of this ore in so singu- 
lar a position. It is confined to the very summit of the mountain for 
some distance midway between the two ends, and to the west of the place 
where the road crosses. Its thickness and extent is unknown, nor do I 
think that more than a few thousand tons of it are to be expected. The 
ore stratum has been swept away from all other parts of the ridge of the 
mountain, and no trace of it has been left upon Deskin's Mountain ; from 


uznj?ic&0arr^& r fossil paint dfier^*--? ' 4=,>>>^ r '^~--:'' '■ £ '& ; .' 5 

which, indeed, the great sandrock No. IV has almost disappeared ; a few 
house and barn-like masses being left standing at its western end in most 
picturesque style. House and Barn Mountain is a prolongation of Paint 



[April 21, 

Lick synclinal westward and is named from two masses of No. IV, 
left upon its summit, visible from all the surrounding country. Dial 
Knob (East River Mountain) and Buckhorn Mountain are prolongations 
of Paint Lick and Deskin's synclinals, eastward beyond Jeffersonville, 
and Dial Knob may have a good deal of fossil ore left upon it in the cove, 
behind the Dial Cliffs ; but Buckhorn has lost the ore. So has the whole 
range of Rich Mountain, from Rocky Gap west, to Morris's Knob, which 
is terminated by one of the most remarkable cliffs of No. IV I ever saw 
(see its profile below). Short Mountain is a prolongation of Rich Moun- 
tain westward, broadened by a shallow synclinal which must hold large 
quantities of the fossil ore. The synclinal of House and Barn Mountain 
is prolonged westward (past Lebanon, far down Clinch River) as a down- 
throw of the No. V Formation against the limestone of No. II ; and all 
along the south side of Copper Ridge there runs a south dipping plate of 

at the IHstend of RichMoivrfains. Morris Knab, £usselLG>,¥a. . 

the fossil ore, which has been opened, in old times, at one point, and used 
in a now abandoned forge. There must be immense quantities of the 
ore in this ridge. It is known to the inhabitants, however, only as a 
paint. But this will be a sufficient guide to the iron master. 

The Indians used the outcrop of the fossil ore bed to paint their faces 
and lodges. The deposit on Paint Lick Mountains was a famous locality 
among the Aborigines. On a smooth perpendicular wall of sandstone, 
facing southward, and visible from General Bowen's house and the 
Maiden Spring, there remain numerous pictures and symbols of men and 
animals in red paint, fresh as when first made, and older than the settle- 
ment of the country by the whites. I give above a view of this long wall 
of sandstone cliffs as I saw it from the Lebanon-Jefferson turnpike ; and, 
when taken with the cross-section, it will explain without further words 
both the structure of this (and other similar mountains) and the cause of 
the small amount of fossil ore left upon its summit, and the total disap- 
pearance of the last remains of the ore deposit from the summits of 
House and Barn, Desmit, Buckhorn, and Rich Mountains. 

But there are extensive outcrops of the fossil ore of No. V along Poor 
Valley ; in fact the deposit (whether rich or not remains to be discovered) 
runs uninterruptedly more than a hundred miles in an almost mathemati- 
cally straight line along the south flank of the Clinch Mountain from 

1871.] Oil tLesley- 

Tennessee, past Moccasin Gap, back of Saltville, past Sharon Alum 
Springs, to Hunting Camp and Kimberling Creeks, and so on, eastward, 
across New Kiver towards the James River country. No doubt some 
sections of this line hold the ore bed in a lean and, perhaps, unworkable 
condition ; but it is quite incredible that other sections will not have it 
both thick and rich. 

Now it is along this Poor "Valley and its outcrop of iron ore that Gen. 
Haupt locates the line of railway. 

Even if the Clinch River line be adopted, for the sake of the coal and 
for other reasons, a branch road must certainly be made up Hunting 
Camp Creek to the Plaster Banks, at Saltville ; and this branch will have 
the ore crop of Poor Valley, and the ore deposits of Tumbling Run, on 
top of Short Mountain, at its command. It can bring the fossil ore for- 
ward to the Forks of Wolf Creek, where are the before mentioned large 
deposits of brown hematite ore ; and where it will meet the coal coming 
across from the Clinch River. Here, or somewhere lower down Wolf 
Creek, perhaps at its mouth, will probably be located one of the princi- 
pal future iron-works of Southwestern Virginia. 


A sound theory of the origin of the gypsum can be, for the present, 
our only guide to a correct estimate of its quantity, where it is known to 
exist, and to its discovery elsewhere. 

Gypsum may be produced by the action of free sulphuric acid on lime- 
stone ; or by the action of sulphuretted hydrogen gas on limestone. One 
or the other, or both of these agents combined, have acted on the lime- 
stone rocks along the banks of the N. Pork Holston River, from Saltville, 
eastward for a number of miles, converting them into gypsum. The 
acid, whether in a fluid or in a gaseous form, has undoubtedly passed 
along between the walls of the great fissure which has thrown the 
Lower Coal Measures of the Poor Valley (Little) Mountain 15,000 or 
20,000 feet down against the limestones; has soaked into the walls of 
the fissure ; and has changed the limestone to gypsum for many yards 
on each side of the crack. Shafts have been sunk through solid masses 
of gypsum rocks thus formed to a reported depth of 500 and 600 feet, 
finding no bottom to the gypsum. 

The story of this shafting as given to me by General Bowen is as follows : 

Salt villa. 

Up J tive 9i. Holston. Rii 

5 ■$ 

1.1 1 1 1 1 III I 3 



<i^«Uv /(? sniltj: . 

Lesley.] 512 [April 21, 

Captain Smith and his son-in-law Mr. Robinson many years ago sank 
a line of shafts across the (tertiary or postertiary) plain on which Salt- 
ville stands, and all of them through gypsum all the way down. Others 
were sunk by Smith & Robinson, Campbell, Taylor & Bowen, Meik and 
others at other places in the Holston Valley for a length of twenty (20) 
miles, more or less, and up Cove Creek four or five miles still further east. 
No attempts were made to get the plaster further on towards Sharon Alum 
Springs; but there is nothing to intimate its non-existence except the 
absence of outcrops through the soil. These outcrops naturally exist- 
ing, or accidentally exposed in farming, or by the railroad cuttings south 
and west of the village, have alone (as it seems) determined the search 
after gypsum in the valley. And as th^e Saltville people alone have any 
proper machinery for sending it to market, a stop has been put to all 
exploration elsewhere. 

Moreovor, seeing that Capt. Smith struck a copious brine in two of bis 
wells, the opinion early prevailed that the salt and the gypsum were 
geologically connected. This opinion induced a number of persons to 
sink in the gypsum outcrops not for gypsum but for salt water. As salt water 
was obtained in no single instance other than Capt. Smith's two wells, all 
hope of obtaining brine and making salt elsewhere than at Saltville has 
been long since abandoned ; and consequently all exploration of the gyp- 
sum rocks, which had no commercial value to the salt-well borers. 

It is therefore probable that the limestone wall (the south wall) of the 
Holston River Downthrow (Upthrow of limestone) will in course of time 
be discovered to be converted into gypsum at other points besides those 
specified above ; and that the gross quantity of gypsum existing beneath 
the surface along this part of the Holston River far exceeds any estimate 
which I can make from the gypsum banks already opened. And for the 
same reason it is probable that the limestone walls of the other Upthrows 
of the region will be found turned into gypsum, at least in certain places, 
and in very considerable abundance. 

The appearance of brine in such quantity and of such strength must 
be considered as a local phenomenon explainable without reference to the 
gypsum. Such an explanation may be found in the very curious lake- 
deposit of the little triangular plain of Saltville ; a deposit evidently 
made in a deep little lake or pond basin filled with red mud saturated 
with salt-water, gypsum drainings, &c, &c. In this mud the salt-water 
has deposited rocksalt, and from this rocksalt deposit now rises the 
copious discharge of brine which furnishes all the supply needful for the 
extensive salt works. The salt lies in solid form, mixed and inter-strati- 
fied with compact red marl or clay, 200 feet below the water-level of the 
Holston ; and the borings Jiave gone down (at the Salt Works) 176 feet 
further without reaching the bottom! On the top of the deposits of salt 
and mud is a stratum of blue slate more than 100 feet thick. Over the 
blue slate lie 60 or 80 feet of gypseous clays. The limestone country being 
cavernous to great depths, and especially along the face of the Down- 
throw, it is not surprising to notice that the level of water stands the 
same for all the wells and shafts sunk at Saltville and rises and falls in sym- 

1871.J 513 [Lesley. 

pathy with the Holston River. This accounts for the inexhaustible supply of 
liquid. The heaviest pumping has no perceptible effect in lowering the level. 
In 1853 the salt yield was 300,000 bushels; 50 lbs. to the bushel, and 6 bush- 
els to the barrel ; at 50 cents a bushel. Five furnaces were then running 
24,000 gallons of brine pumped daily ; 10,000 cords of wood burned yearly. 

During the Civil War, four wells were pumped night and day for six 
months, and yielded 1,000,000 bushels of salt during that half year. 
There were then sixty-nine different "blocks of kettles" going. These 
kettles, broken and rusty, lie scattered about the valley for six miles, 
half buried in piles of burnt and broken down walls which represent the 
various works then in full operation. Some of the salt water was carried 
in railway tanks nine miles to Glade Spring Station on the Virginia and 
Tennessee Eailroad, and boiled there. 

At present there are three "blocks," of 80 kettles each, (5 bushel to a 
kettle) per 24 hours, making 360,000 bushels per year, of 300 days. 

Preston's gypsum banks yielded 2000 tons in 1854 ; the cost at the 
mines, in lump, being $3, and in flour $5 ; eighty miles distant $20. 

What the yield has been since and what it is now, I do not know. Ope- 
rations are vigorously carried on at four or five shafts. Plaster is now 
sold at the mines for $2.50 the ton ; at Sharon Alum Springs, 35 miles to 
the eastward, at $10, in wagons ; and is carried forty miles further east 
for use upon the soil. Its virtues are well known and highly prized. It 
doubles the grass crop and grain, and greatly improves corn. One bushel 
of 100 pounds is sown to the acre. 

A railway from Saltville east would find a market for all the plaster it 
carried. Plaster would go east to the Wolf Creek Fork Junction, and re- 
turn by the other line to be used on the pasture lands of Tazewell and 
Russell and Wise Counties. But its greatest commercial outlet would be 
towards Staunton and Winchester. 

Although the gypsum rocks have not the regularity of a coal bed, and 
some difficulties, of a kind peculiar to this district will be encountered 
when mining operations are extended to cope with the demands of com- 
merce along a great trunk railroad, yet I see no practical limit to the 
capacity of the gypsum belt for exploration. Shafts five and six hun- 
dred feet deep have permitted the miners to feel the gypsum masses for 
fifty yards in width. Such a mass, limited by such a shaft, weighs six or 
seven hundred thousand tons, provided the gypsum be solid the entire 
depth of the shaft, &c, &c. This is not the case ; neither, on the other 
hand, is the width of the column of gypsum limited to fifty yards, or to 
any other figure. Nothing can be more irregular than the masses of gyp- 
sum underground — unless it be the course to be taken to get it out to the 
surface. In spite of all mining difficulties the value and scarcity of 
the mineral in all other parts of the country must make its mining in this 
district always extremely profitable, and its railway carriage over long dis- 
ances inevitable. It must always be in demand ; can always pay a high 
freight charge, and cannot meet with competition from the Nova Scotia 
plaster until it arrives within a hundred miles or so of tidewater. Westward 
and southward it may go five hundred miles without meeting competition.